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University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics

Abstract

This study investigates whether socio-indexical labelling operates under a shared or a separate system across the two languages of a bilingual talker-listener. We argue for a shared system, showing that L1 indexical labels interact with L2 indexical labels during speech perception. In particular, we investigate the effect of ethnic dialect on bilingual speech processing by using a novel cross-language/cross-dialect auditory priming paradigm in the New Zealand context, where Maori (TR) and English are both official languages, and English has two main ethnic varieties: Maori English (ME) and Pakeha English (PE). Fifty-four English-Maori bilinguals participated in a short-term auditory primed lexical decision task, where bilingual prime and target pairs were made up of English-to-Maori and Maori-to-English translation equivalents. Half of the English words were pronounced by a PE speaker, and half by a ME speaker, creating four test conditions: TR-ME, TR-PE, ME-TR, PE-TR. The results reveal a significantly larger priming effect between ME and TR than between PE and TR. We argue for a direct activation link between the "Maori" indexical labels within the English language set of representations and the "Maori" indexical labels within the Maori language set of representations. The results suggest that socio-indexical labels can facilitate translation priming. In particular, recent, more innovative variants appear to be processed as special in short-term memory.

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